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Windows on the World: A Novel Hardcover – March 30, 2005

26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"You know how it ends: everybody dies." Thus begins Beigbeder's gripping apocalyptic novel, which takes place on September 11, 2001 - the date on which New York realtor Carthew Yorston has taken his seven- and nine-year-old sons for a long-promised breakfast at the eponymous eatery atop the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Alternating with Smith's narration is the voice of Beigbeder himself - or a thinly disguised version of the French author - musing about the tragedy one year later over his own breakfast in Le Ciel de Paris, on the 56th floor of the Tour Montparnasse, the tallest building in Paris. Each chapter of the novel represents one minute on that fateful morning, from 8:30 to 10:29; nearly all are less than three pages, and several prove startling in their brevity ("In the Windows, the few remaining survivors intone Irving Berlin's 'God Bless America' (1939)"). Both men riff on everything from trivia to politics and make often poignant philosophical observations. Abundant doses of gallows humor at once add levity and underscore the drama. Yorston's overheard snatches of fatuous cell-phone conversations, for example, would be funny in another context, while the enforced exit of a cigar-smoking guest at Windows on the World "thereby proves that a cigar can save your life." Though some readers may be put off by this novel's subject matter, Beigbeder invests his narrators with such profound humanity that the book is far more than a litany of catastrophe: it is, on all levels, a stunning read.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"...The first novel to perfectly capture the bizarre collection of emotional modes we juggled...after the first shock of Sept. 11." --

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Miramax; First Edition edition (March 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401352235
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401352233
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #970,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Howard Paul Burgess on June 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It seems that not a lot of readers were as impressed by WINDOWS ON THE WORLD as I was. I found it compelling reading and very well done, but to tell the truth I wish I hadn't read it. Beigbeter does a great job; actually, too good a job. I felt like I was there with Carthew and his boys David, age seven, and Jerry, age nine.

At one point Carthew wonders what Bruce Willis would do if he were trapped on top of a burning building. And that's Beigbeder's point- that this isn't an amusement park ride and the flames and smoke aren't George Lucas special effects. It's real.

And worst of all, there's not going to be a happy ending to the story. These people are all- regardless of age or other factors- going to die in a very short period of time. Not because they're good or bad, just because they went to breakfast at a tourist landmark on the wrong sunny Tuesday morning.

I'll admit it, it was the fact of the kids being there that got to me. I've got two daughters, two granddaughters, two cats, and three dogs. If I had a farm Lord knows how many animals we'd have in the barnyard.

If we live long enough I guess we'll see stories coming out about 9-11 that have artificial happy endings for everybody. A few years ago there was a children's cartoon (thankfully it got almost no distribution) about the Titanic that had every passenger and crew member survive. A major studio did a cartoon that showed the murdered Russian Princess Anastasia grown to adulthood and haunted by the ghost of Rasputin the mad monk. Boys and girls, can you say historical blasphemy? The facts of history are facts and should be inviolate. End of rant.

If you read WINDOWS ON THE WORLD I hope you've got thicker skin than I do. It hurt.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By K. Hannay on January 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have only read this in the original French, so cannot directly comment on the quality of the translations, although seeing some of the quotations in other reviews, I feel some of the irony may have been lost. I do not think this it is great literature by any means, the gratuitous sex scenes for example, written in that queasy hardcore porn style so beloved of Beigbeder and Houllebecq, are as old fashioned and dull as when they were first introduced into 'literature' via 'American Psycho' many years ago. What I do think is sad is that I think Beigbeder was trying to forge an emotional link between Europeans and Americans in this book. The hostility towards France, as seen in some of the reviews here, was equally matched by anti-American feeling in Europe and he was going out on a limb to remind us that these people who died were human beings, not just Americans who have 'had it coming to them for some years'. The tragedy, as tragedies often do, inspired him and many others to reconsider their values, perhaps Beigbeder's style makes him appear flippant to some American readers, but I found a lot of his cynicism self-depreceating and frankly, funny. Also, why shouldn't he muse on capitalism? The Twin Towers were chosen as a target as they were a symbol of the capitalist system and the thought of America's involvement in all those 'distant' wars and 'strange' countries crosses the mind of the father who is about to die. As for its literary merits, in contrast to some of the more intellectual reviewers who appear to think it doesn't have any, I am of the opinion that the style is engaging and often witty, there were few passages I read which made me think, wow! that was brilliantly written, but plenty that me made feel, yes, perhaps that I would feel like in that dreadful situation. Maybe the translator wasn't good enough, maybe Beigbeder's style was just 'trop' French but it just feels to me like a lot of people have grasped the wrong end of the olive branch.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Amy Belle on April 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Windows on the World is a French novel, translated into English, about September 11th. It follows two parallel storylines: one, an American father named Carthew Yorston and his two sons trapped in the Windows on the World restaurant in the north tower; and the other, a French novelist named Frédéric Beigbeder ruminating on September 11th over breakfast in the tallest building in Paris. One's immediate reaction even to just hearing the premise is "how French." But if the story is a French one, it is so only because American novelists are still too close to the tragedy of 9/11 to fictionalize it. No one is more aware of the sensitive nature of his subject than Beigbeder himself: call it naïve, call it exploitative, but Windows on the World is emphatically not an "anti-American" novel.

It is a great novel, but a troubling one; or rather, its subject is troubling. Like any great novel, Windows on the World bores down through its grand backdrop (in other cases, war or revolution; in this case, the destruction of the World Trade Center) to focus on characters and tell their very human stories of love and redemption. In the final pages, the father in the burning building is able to tell his son he loves him-words that he was never able to say-just before they leap to their death; and the writer Frédéric, who throughout the text is cynical, alone, and all but unable to love, finds redemption and buys an engagement ring from Tiffany's to propose to his girlfriend.

The structure of the novel is simple, but it works well: each minute between 8:30 a.m. and 10:29 a.m.
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